Enes Kanter previously said he can't travel with the Knicks for their NBA London Game because of his fear he could be killed on the trip.
Former NBA player Hedo Turkoglu, who is now a chief advisor to the president of Turkey, responded to the claims made by Knicks center Enes Kanter on why he would not travel to London when his team plays the Washington Wizards on Jan. 17.
"I talked to the front office [and] sadly I'm not going because of that freaking lunatic, the Turkish president," Kanter told reporters on Friday. "There's a chance that I can get killed out there."
Kanter added, "They've got a lot of spies there. I could get killed very easy."
Despite Kanter's remarks, a Knicks official said the eighth-year big man won't travel due to a visa issue, according to ESPN.com. That visa problem is what Turkoglu mentioned when discussing the issue.
"We know that [Kanter] has not been able to travel to many countries due to visa issues since 2017," Turkoglu said in a statement posted to Twitter on Monday. "In other words, Kanter can't enter the UK not because of fears for life as he claims but due to passport and visa issues. This being the long-known truth, he is trying to get the limelight with irrational justifications and political remarks.
"Such remarks constitute another example of the political smear campaign Kanter has been conducting against Turkey as well as his efforts to attribute importance to himself by covering up the contradictions in his sports career. ... It is obvious that this person's remarks are irrational and distort the truth."
Kanter, a 26-year-old native of Turkey, has been an outspoken critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An arrest warrant was issued for Kanter in 2017 after the then-Oklahoma City center was critical of Erdogan in a series of tweets posted in 2016. Kanter was also detained in Romania in May 2017 after his Turkish passport was canceled, which he also attributed to his open criticism of Erdogan’s government.
Enes and his father, Mehmet, support Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish spiritual leader that lives exiled in Pennsylvania. Mehmet was reportedly charged by the Turkish government with "membership in a terror group," last summer. Enes learned of his father's arrest from Turkish media reports.
The center said that he thought the Turkish government was trying to punish his father for his son's political beliefs.